Disclaimer: I own none of the contents except the way the words are put together. If I had enough money to be worth suing, I wouldn't be selling muffins.

Little bit of explanation needed, as I can't make italics work on ffnet.

- - - - - means a flashback, and * * * * * * indicates a scene change. Thanks!

Shanty Chapter seven On Board the HMS Valiant.

"Trowa?" Quatre toyed with the buttons on his sleeve. Trowa ddn't look up.

"Your buttons will fall off if you keep doing that, you know. What's wrong?"

"Trowa, I've been appointed counsel for Seaman Maxwell."

"He's not guilty."

"Well. I checked the regulations. Technically, he is. He struck first. And he struck an officer. I don't know if I can get him off."

Trowa's voice was deadly serious. "He was provoked."

"Yes. but how do we prove that? We shouldn't have been there. And Alex's word is more believable than Maxwell's."

"We were there, though."

Quatre looked at his feet. "We were, yes."

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"It's my arse on the line, Middy. You were away from your post."

"It wasn't my shift!"

Quatre tried to walk away, but Mueller's hand dropped heavily onto his shoulder. "You weren't supposed to be there, Middy. Officers don't go into the fo'c'sle. That's the enlisted man's territory, the only place they can be the pigs they are. If the captain finds out you were there, I get called to Captain's Mast. Not you, me." The first middy leaned over and hissed into Quatre's ear, his breath hot and wet. "You make a mistake, I'm the one who pays. And if I pay. so do you. D'you understand me, Midshipman Winner?"

Quatre could hardly speak. "Yes, Sir."

"Yes, Sir, what?"

"Yes, Sir, I understand. I was never there, Sir."

A fist slammed into the bulkhead next to Quatre's head.

"Very good, Middy." Quatre's knees gave out as he watched the burly first midshipman leave.

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Quatre shivered and rolled over in his bunk, Mueller's words still ringing in his head. He'd read the regulations, all right, and he couldn't see a way around it. Maxwell was going to be shot, and it would be his fault. His soul was damned if he didn't speak, if he condemned a man to death through his inaction. But if he spoke. he closed his eyes, but opened them again at the vision of Mueller's snarling face imprinted on his eyelids. If he spoke, Mueller would have his hide.

Quatre lay sleepless through the night.

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In Southampton, Hilde bid goodbye to her last customer and sat down for a drink, humming.

"Adi doo adi doo a-day

Adi do adi aydi

He whistled and he sang 'till the green woods rang

And he won the heart of a lady."

She stared morosely into her mug.

Another of the inn's girls rubbed a ring off of a tabletop. "Ah, Hilde luv, yer whistlin' gypsy rover's jus' fine. He's up in the riggin' somewheres, singin' 'is idiot songs t' th' gulls. Don't worry. Floor needs sweepin' though, if ye've nowt to do."

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It was very dark in the cage in the hold that served as a brig. Prisoners weren't provided with any light - if a candle were to tip over, it could cause disaster on board a wooden ship. Duo Maxwell shivered in the damp air. He had sung to fill the darkness, but his voice had become raw, and so he kept silent.

His eyes were closed to stave off the headache that came of trying to find shapes in the darkness, so he didn't see the hatch open or the young officer who came through it. Quatre made his way slowly across the hold to the brig. When he reached it, he reached through and gently tapped the prisoner on the shoulder.

"Seaman Maxwell?"

Duo started. "Wha'? Oh. Sir?"

"Maxwell, I'm Midshipman Winner. I've been appointed to represent you." This was hard, thought Quatre. "You're in a lot of trouble, Maxwell, and I honestly don't know if I can get you out. I've heard about it from Alex. Can you give me your point of view on this mess?"

Duo muttered something.

"Pardon?"

"'E called 'er a whore, all right?" Duo's eyes flashed. "'E called Hilde a whore, and me a bastard son of a whore. And, yeh, she is, and yeh, I am, and a few other things besides, but Hilde's a lady finer 'n any of 'is fancy rich dames. She's stronger an' more beau'iful an' she sings like a lark." his voice trailed off, finishing in a whisper. "An' I luv 'er, God help me, I luv 'er."

Quatre swallowed the lump that was in his throat. "So he provoked you, and you struck him."

"Yeh. Yes."

Quatre restrained a curse at the admission. He kept coming back to that - provoked or no, the man had struck Alex, and that was that. No way around it. Duo saw the look on the midshipman's face, and his heart sank. He dared to speak before being spoken to, and to hell with protocol. He was a dead man, and well he knew it.

"Sir?"

Quatre snapped out of his reverie. "Yes, Maxwell?"

"Sir, I. well. I - Sir, could ye do somethin' fer me? I can't write, an' Hilde can't read - she's clever as anyt'ing, sir, jus' never learned - but could ye write 'er a letter, from me, so she knows I 'aven't f'rgotten 'er, like? The man 'oo owns the inn she works at c'n read, an' 'e'll read it to 'er."

Quatre thought for a minute, while Maxwell looked on anxiously. If he agreed to this, he'd be leaving behind the last vestiges of his father's stern injunction. Superior officers did not care about their inferiors - and one who was sure to be executed despite anything he could do, at that - enough to write letters to their mistresses for them. But then, his father didn't need to know.

"Yes, I will."

Later, he reread the letter Maxwell had dictated, that he'd written on the stationary he'd brought with him, with black ink, crossed out several times where Maxwell had changed his mind.

"Dear Hilde,

One of the Valiant's midshipmen is being kind enough to write this for me. Give him a kiss when he delivers it - name of Winner.

I've had it, love. One of the lieutenants said some things, it doesn't matter what, so I hit him. I think you might have known him, along with a lot of the other ladies at the Rest. He's the one left those bruises on you. And yes, he deserved it, and I'd not be a man if I hadn't hit him, but the Navy doesn't look kindly on mere seamen who blacken a lieutenant's eye. Funny that. I joined the Navy so the king wouldn't hang me.

I've not forgotten you, love. I couldn't forget my riddling lady fair. I used to think when I'd sailed and roved about long enough, I'd buy a little bit of land, and a pair of pigs, and come and marry you, and we'd have children. I never thought I'd stop in one place, not until I died, but I'd do it for you, I would. I love you."

In the space under the letter, Maxwell had laboriously scrawled the only words he knew how to write. The ink under the M was smudged, and the D was backwards, and one of the l's was missing, but Maxwell had insisted on writing his own name. He'd kissed the letter and pressed it into Quatre's hands, and had watched wistfully as Quatre left, taking with him the candle and plunging the hold back into darkness.

Quatre lay awake, alone in his quarters, wishing Trowa wasn't on duty so he could speak. He would have slept, knew he needed to, but the thought of facing Maxwell's trial the next day kept him awake.

Duo didn't mind the dark, so much, this time. It meant the rats couldn't see his tears. Quietly, not wanting to hear the echo that reminded him of his solitude, he sang.

"Oh, I'll come a-rollin' home,

When my roving days done.

And when I do I'll finally

Settle down and never stray."

(long)Author's Note: I am so very sorry for the delay in this. I've emailed everyone who's left me a review to let them know that this chapter's up - hope I didn't miss anyone. As an excuse, may I claim real life? I managed to get myself accepted to my first choice university (Memorial, in Newfoundland), so I'm moving halfway across the country in August, and been in plays, and spent a semester soaking up the friendship of the folks I'll leave behind. See, I'm a rover too. And it's to one of those folks I'm leaving behind I'm dedicating this chapter, because she nagged me and watched over my shoulder as I wrote the first part of this, and annoyed me, and gave me hugs, and basically gave me the kick in the butt I needed. So, Isa, this is your chapter of Shanty.

Songs used: The one Hilde sings is an old song, called 'The Whistling Gypsy Rover". The version I have is by the Clancy Brothers. The one sung by Duo in the last paragraph is "Rolling Home", off the album by the same name, sung by the Irish Descendants. It's one of their originals, and thus is an anachronism, but ooh! Look! *brandishes poetic license* I have one of these.

Reviewers: Wow, look at you all. I do hope you're still with me. Bryony, the reason this doesn't appear to be going anywhere is because this seems to be turning into two separate arcs. As for six chapters - they really aren't very long chapters :p. Deirdre (I love your name, btw, one of my fave fictional characters is a Deirdre), I'm sorry about the stress. I hope there's still some of you left! KNW, I notice you haven't started your historical fic yet - I hope you still want to, it sounds cool. Relwarc, I hope you don't miss this update, long as it's been in coming. Is there an email address I could let you know at next time? If there is, feel free to email me with it. Artificer Urza, I have to confess to not being to sure how Duo's going to get out of this. I'm like Quatre - I want him to, but can't see how. Dark vampire: Wow, I've never had an adoring fan before. I'm glad you like. Nips. is that a mouse? Cool! Gailstorum, I'm glad you like, and I'm glad you think it's original. Thanks. Gros minou. *hugs*